Women’s Wear Daily held its 18th Apparel and Retail CEO Summit in New York this week. It focused on “the new face of fashion” and brought together visionaries from young(ish) and well-established companies who are shaking up an already incredibly dynamic industry. There’s much that I can’t share publicly, but here are some insights from leading retailers that, in unique ways, are helping to shake up the industry.


Digital builds relationships for Tory Burch

The fashion icon and entrepreneur talked about the importance of digital and the meteoric growth for its brand. “eCommerce was a way for us to build a relationship with our customer,” said Burch. “We wanted it to be about storytelling, and it was a perfect [platform] for that, too.” The company, she said, launched its digital business in 17 countries about a year and a half ago and is now 20% of its business and growing, adding that mobile and social media will be key initiatives. “Looking at Instagram, they’re going to do commerce. Think about the implications of that. The customer has so much information all the time. We have to be able to be flexible enough to move with the environment.”


ModCloth listens – really listens – to their customers

ModCloth, an online pure play fashion retailer (which has selected Demandware as its next commerce platform for global expansion) has created a unique social experience. The 13-year old company sees physical stores as a way to listen and learn from their shoppers, and in July opened a ‘Fit Shop’ in San Francisco to get closer to customers and receive instant and valuable feedback about their merchandise.


Warby Parker opened their first store because they were running out of samples

Warby Parker didn’t open their first store because it was the next shiny object. They did it because there was a need for customers to touch, feel, and try on samples prior to purchase. Their initial omni-channel strategy involved shipping five samples of frames for consumers to keep for five days. Demand was so high in the first four days, Warby Parker ran out of samples. So, they transformed their office into a store, then stood up a pop-up store, and today operate about 20 showrooms. These showrooms are equipped with ‘Points of Everything,’ to assist the associate through the discovery, purchase, and service process. Today, Warby Parker’s sales per square foot is around $3,000 — second only to Apple.


JC Penney is all about science

CEO Marvin Ellison is on a mission. He wants to regain the trust of the loyal shoppers they alienated during the last regime, and at the same time, recoup the $6 billion of lost revenue that followed during that 18-month period. How? Much of their focus will be on leveraging data and science to make smarter decisions in crucial areas like supply chain and merchandising. This formula worked for them in the past – by leveraging ProfitLogic for markdown optimization and had some of the best margin and comps in their vertical. JC Penney will also rely heavily on private label brands that they created or acquired over the last five years. And they are also testing the fast fashion category in the wake of Zara, H&M, and Primark’s success.


Jimmy Choo is serious about China

With 18 stores in 11 cities across Mainland China, Jimmy Choo has outpaced its competitors in the luxury market in this huge and hugely attractive region. A key strategy is physical locations in malls. While their CEO contends that ecommerce is a little way off for them in China, the mall is here and now. Like malls in the US in the 1950’s that popped up along with highways and suburbs, these are significant destinations for the wealthy and rising middle class. These malls are new, interesting, and fun.

These retailers sell different types of products to different types of customers. What is common among them, however, is a desire to apply technology, innovative thinking, and a customer-first approach to retailing that helps make them “the new face of fashion.”